9 men being held at Otay Mesa jail
By Onell R. Soto
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
September 13, 2006
A group of Cubans awaiting possible deportation from Mexico broke out of a detention facility in Tijuana last weekend and showed up hours later at the San Ysidro border crossing, where they requested political asylum.
Ten Cuban men broke through a fence at the detention center sometime after 10 p.m. Saturday, Mexican officials said. They were accompanied by a man from Guyana.
Nine of the Cubans made it to San Ysidro and requested asylum, they said. It's unclear what happened to the other Cuban.
U.S. officials confirmed that the Cubans are in local custody but declined comment about asylum.
The Guyanese man was caught in Tijuana by immigration authorities who are now, again, working on deportation, said Mexican Consul General Diego Luis Cabrera Cuaron in San Diego.
The Cubans, who were smuggled into Mexico, had been in Mexican custody while officials there decided whether to deport them to Cuba, Cabrera said.
The facility they escaped from is not a jail, but a place where people stay while their immigration status is decided.
Their flight north of the border now makes a return to Cuba less likely, Cabrera said.
U.S. law treats Cubans differently from people from the rest of the world. Cubans fleeing the Castro regime who arrive on U.S. soil can apply for permanent residency.
Although the Cubans had been in Mexican custody, officials there aren't asking for their return, Cabrera said.
“Since they are in the United States, the U.S. government will decide,” he said.
The nine Cubans trickled in on foot Saturday night and early Sunday morning, said Vince Bond, spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, which runs the border crossing.
Cubans come through San Ysidro infrequently, he said, calling this group “unusually large.”
They were turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and are being held at an Otay Mesa jail, ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack said.
She wouldn't say whether they have sought asylum.
The shortest distance as the crows flies between Havana, Cuba and Tijuana, MX is 2,205 miles.